View Full Version : E-Mail Etiquette

14th March 2011, 02:46 AM
Exchanging e-mail messages is like having a conversation without seeing the face or hearing the voice of the other person. You have only the person’s words, but none of the visual and auditory clues—inflections, facial expressions, and gestures, for instance—that help explain the underlying meaning of the words.

Because of the impersonal and often informal nature of e-mail, the tone and substance of messages can easily be misinterpreted. To help avoid confusion and hurt feelings, Internet users have developed a loose set of rules known as “netiquette” (network etiquette), including guidelines for being a responsible and courteous e-mail correspondent.

Establishing a Courteous Tone

E-mail is a speedy medium: You can dash out a note in a minute, and, with the help of a “reply” button, respond to another person’s e-mail message in perhaps a matter of seconds. The fast pace of e-mail makes it easy to send a message without fully considering the nuances of its tone. If you do not take the time to think about your words and how they may be perceived, your e-mail messages may seem overly blunt or even insulting.

A simple rule can keep you from writing inadvertently offensive e-mail messages: Always ask yourself how you would feel if you received the message you are sending. If you would bristle at its terseness, you can assume the reader will as well. If you are unsure how the message might be taken, ask for someone else’s opinion, or let it sit overnight and read it again the next morning with a fresh eye.

If someone sends you a rude message (or “flame,” in e-mail slang), take a moment to calm down before responding. The best way to douse a flame is to write back using the most neutral and measured tone you can muster. In some cases it’s best not to respond to a flame.

Deciding Who Should Receive an E-mail Message

Your e-mail system may allow you to send a message to many or even all of your co-workers with the click of a button. On rare occasions, this feature can be enormously useful. Few messages, however, are actually relevant to everyone in a company.

Before sending an e-mail message, always take a moment to ask yourself who really needs to see it. In determining who should receive it, err on the side of caution. Once in a great while, you may omit an important person from your mailing list. Remember, though, that an occasional oversight is a far more forgivable offense than continually cluttering your colleagues’ inboxes with messages that have nothing to do with them.

Responding to E-mail Messages

Get in the habit of checking your inbox at least two times a day so you can reply to e-mail messages promptly. If you receive a request for information that may take a few days to compile, respond immediately with an e-mail message that explains the situation and gives an estimate of when you will be able to reply in full.

When responding to an e-mail message using a reply button, do not type in a new subject line. Instead allow the reply function to post automatically the same subject line that appeared in the message you are answering with “Re” (for “in reference to”) before it.

On some e-mail systems, the 'reply' function can be set to copy the message you are answering under your response. If the message to which you are responding is lengthy, delete all of the original message except the information that is directly pertinent to your response.

Often the clearest way to respond to an e-mail message is to create a question-and-answer structure, using quotes from your correspondent’s message as the questions.

>Have you seen the report yet? Has anyone else?
No, I haven’t, but Charley has.
>Did Charley give you a schedule?
Yes. See the attachment to this message.

Forwarding Messages

Most e-mail systems allow you to send a message you have received to a third party by clicking a “forward” button. Before forwarding any message, always ask the permission of the writer. There may be a good reason that the original message was sent only to you.

Keep the ease of forwarding in mind when you write your own e-mail messages. If you send a message to one person that insults another, you run the risk that someone may accidentally (or not so accidentally) forward your note to the subject of your remarks. As a rule, you should never make an unflattering comment about anyone in an e-mail message that you would not be willing to say to that person’s face.

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